I’m sure you have heard of the prodigal son. If not, read Luke 15:11-32. Usually when someone talks about this parable they discuss the subject of the son leaving, then returning, and repenting. Or they discuss the elder son who complained about what the father did for the son that left yet did “nothing” for him. I want to dig a little deeper and focus on the financial aspect of the prodigal son. I think there is something to be learned from his act of wasting money.
The man found himself in a stinky pit. He was so hungry that he was willing to eat the slop he was throwing out to the pigs. He was there because of his own choices. He was given much but did not use it wisely. He wasted every bit of it. He didn’t plan for the future. He had spent all his money then a famine came to the land. He had no way to support himself and no man was willing to help him. He became a servant to someone and his job was to feed the pigs.
I would imagine he was very unhappy about where he was or was likely complaining as well. There is no indication that he immediately recognized his mistakes but that it took a little time.
I would imagine he was very unhappy about where he was or was likely complaining as well. There is no indication that he immediately recognized his mistakes but that it took a little time. Verse 17 begins with “And when he came to himself” so I like to think that he was distraught and possible out of his sound mind because of his circumstances that he didn’t even recognize a way out.
Then verse 7 continues and it appears that his first thought was that his father’s servants were fed and treated better, and he was willing to go home and be a servant to his father rather than returning home as his son. He was willing to admit that he did God wrong and his father wrong in order to return home. At that point, we really don’t know if it was true repentance or just his way of trying to get out of the trouble he was in.
I want to step back and look at the very small moment in verse 13, “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.” The man took an expensive vacation, basically. Imagine for a moment this scenario…
“Hey dad! Can I get my inheritance now while you are alive instead of waiting until your dead?” the younger son says. The dad complies and hands out the inheritance. The entire time the son is thinking about all the fun stuff he is going to get to do with all the “extra money”. He figures it will be fine because he has a job and a paycheck coming in at home, so he still has his bill money. Never once considering or planning for future possibilities. Off he goes on the vacation of a lifetime. He is living it up in the land he traveled to. It’s modernizing it a bit, but I keep picturing this man eating at the fanciest places, hanging out with women, going to parties, gambling, buying pointless souvenirs, and drinking until he couldn’t see straight. So unaware of the choices he was making that he spent all his money rather quickly.
How often do we spend all our money so quickly because we didn’t intentionally pay attention to what we were spending? Maybe we received what we like to call “extra” money and decided to spend it without giving any thought to the possibility that we might hit a rough patch later.
We got stuck in this pity party and start looking at everyone else instead of ourselves. We start focusing on what we “don’t have” instead of being better stewards of what we do have.
The prodigal son made both of those mistakes and it landed him in a pit with the pigs. It does the same to us. When we continue to make those financial errors on a regular basis it puts us in a stinky pit. We feel miserable, all we want to do is complain. It draws envy out of us because we compare or situation to others and perceive that everyone else has it better than we do. We got stuck in this pity party and start looking at everyone else instead of ourselves. We start focusing on what we “don’t have” instead of being better stewards of what we do have. We try to blame others or expect others to help no matter what.
No one likes having to give anything up but sometimes we must take what we see as a step backward to move forward.
The thing that makes me ponder this the most is why in the world do we continue to make those same mistakes over and over when we know where it leads. It isn’t like this is the first time we made that mistake! We openly and intentionally continue to choose to wallow in the pit with the pigs. We continue to choose to be wasteful and continue to avoid being good stewards of our finances by making a budget and living within our means. Maybe that means we must give up a few things for awhile so that we can begin to step out of the pit. No one likes having to give anything up but sometimes we must take what we see as a step backward to move forward.
There is a terrible epidemic today that says, “You need more stuff and more entertainment.” People are willing to spend an upwards of $300+ per month on phones, internet connection, television, movies, etc….. all for the sake of… what? Nothing really. Not only is that sucking our money dry it's sucking our time dry.
Don’t get me wrong, those are not bad to have within reason, but they are not good if you are going in debt and trading your time better spent. Some work a forty-hour week just to cover those expenses I mentioned. They are literally trading their time to have those things. I might go as far to say that is isn’t far from being a “servant” to the stuff. We are servants to “stuff” if we are spending more money than we are making, or we are working so much to have the “stuff” that we can’t even enjoy what we have or the people in our life. If all there is to your life is working 2 or more jobs and you still can’t make ends meet, you are doing something wrong. Either your jobs are not worth your time or you are spending way more than you should be. What is the point of working all day long to pay for that expensive brand-new car you drive and the gas to just get to work to do it all over again? Or to pay for that expensive home that you can’t even enjoy because you're gone all day? Or to buy all those fancy gadgets for your children when in the mean time all they really want is to spend time with you?
We are so much like the prodigal son by not giving any thought to how we spend our money and all we can see is what stuff we can get with it. Then when money gets tight we complain about being broke and poor.
If I may be blunt, we have no right to complain about what we could have prevented and prepared for. I used to focus so much on money. I always had it in my head that “Oh if I just had more then things wouldn’t be so hard, and I would be happier.” I would constantly compare and wonder why “everyone else” had it so easy while I struggled. I never once gave a thought to the fact that my issues were of my own doing. I just believed that I was dealt a rotten hand and doomed by a family curse. I believed that nothing was going to get any better.
I could write you a book about the struggles my husband and I have faced over the years and even ones I faced before I knew him. Praise the Lord, that He has been working in us to change those bad habits. We haven’t perfected it yet, but we are determined to change the bad habits passed down to use from generations before us. We are determined, with the Lord’s help, to break that curse and bondage.
I have also learned that God will not reward you with more of what you aren’t even handling correctly right now.
I have also learned that God will not reward you with more of what you aren’t even handling correctly right now. Believe me when I say, whatever you are right now, however you feel right now, and whatever struggles you have right now will still be the same even with more money. Money only amplifies your current standing.
We must learn to be good stewards and thankful for what we do have rather than focusing on what we don’t have. We must take the steps needed to step out of the stinky pit with the pigs and in to the field of grace where God will give you exactly what you need, and it will turn out to be exactly what you wanted.